Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Five ~ Leap Day Edition

RevGals willsmama and Songbird write, "It's Leap Day!! Whether you're one of the special few who have a birthday only once every four years, or simply confused by the extra day on the calendar, everyone is welcome to join in and play our Leap Year Friday Five."

Tell us about a time you:

1. Leapt before looked

I don't tend to be a 'leaper.' I usually weigh the pros and cons quite carefully before I do anything. I'm not very spontaneous! I probably should work on that.....

2. Leapt to a conclusion

I tend to take things too personally and think that if someone is acting irritated or upset, it must somehow be my fault. Sometimes that is the case! But most of the time it has nothing to do with me and I waste precious time worrying about what I might've done.

3. Took a Leap of Faith

Every time I get in the car. I have a terrible sense of direction.

4. Took a literal Leap

A few months ago our Youth Group did a ropes course. For the last event I was strapped to a bunch to ropes, hauled up to the ceiling and released. I flew across the auditorium! I thought it would be scary, but it was exhilarating. And I think I impressed some of the kids by actually doing it. (They know I'm kind of a chicken!)

5. And finally, what might you be faced with leaping in the coming year?

My birthday is coming up and I am thinking about challenging myself in a different way for my 34th year. I don't want to give any details yet, but I will post more about it on my birthday.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Church Library

Lately I've noticed that I have not mentioned much about the "lib" part of our "minlib" adventures. One joint adventure that we have been busy at lately is the Church Library. This project was actually conceived quite a while ago, but now we are entering the home stretch.

I can't speak for Gary, but I found this project to be much more ambitious than I expected. Our church library consists of three built in shelf sets in the middle of our reception hall. It had been neglected for quite some time, so there was a vast assortment of books to be organized ~ some cataloged, some not, many probably just placed there by folks who had gone through their bookshelves at home.

The phase of the project I have been most involved in is the sorting. Our main goal it to have a relevant library ~ not easy when most of the books on the shelves were published between 1930 and 1960! At this point we have cut the library more than in half, which will hopefully make things easier to find and leave room for (relevant) expansion. We placed the discarded books on a "Free Book" table, which has worked well, but has also led to questions such as, "Why are you getting rid of this book?" People have also used the "Free Book" table as a book exchange.... taking some books and bringing others in... Noooooo!

Gary is now in the process of making an on-line catalogue and we will be open for 'business' soon. It has been fun to work together on this project, and it has given me a greater appreciation for the 'lib' part of our 'minlib' adventures!

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Friday in Lent

The snow is falling lazily outside. Tortilla soup is simmering in the crock pot. The dog is asking for a walk. And I am feeling very Lent-y on this day off of mine. I'm thinking of new life... of buds and sun and not having to bundle up every time I go outside. I want to wear shorts and t-shirts and sunglasses. I'm ready for Alleluias and empty tombs... all the good things that come at the end of these forty days. I'm ready for spring. But for now I don my purple parka and snow boots to take Nicky for a walk and enjoy this season of waiting.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Holy Space

Creating 'Holy Space' has been a topic of late at our Contemporary Worship and Visioning Team. After a recent meeting of interested members of the congregation if became clear that that majority want to keep worshiping in the Sanctuary. While we still do hope to someday move into a renovated worship chapel, that space will not be done for a while yet. The other options were to worship in our reception or fellowship hall. Those spaces would have been more intimate and flexible, but they would have lacked the sacred sense of being in a worship space.

So now we are left with the challenge of transforming our 700 seat sanctuary with fixed pews (which is perfect for our traditional worship gatherings) into a intimate worship space for 30 or so 'contemporary' folks. The first thing we did was rope off the vast majority of the pews so as to make everyone sit together on one side toward the front. We then focused our attention on one side of the sanctuary with art, flowers and an altar brought closer to the people for our weekly communion. We also have our screen for power point projection on that side of the worship space which helps to focus the gathering.

That said, we have to make this transformation in the 45 minute window between our traditional and contemporary services and then take it all down again at the end. It is working, though, and I am very pleased. We have a focus for our worship center, and intimate space where we can feel in community and a sense of the sacred. Does anyone else have experience in transforming such a space? I would love to hear your ideas!

(Many thanks to the creator of ASBO Jesus for the cartoon. Check out his website here.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I'm Learning a New Song

My husband suggested that my last post was, perhaps, a little harsh. Sorry if that was so... But in any case, here is something brought a smile to my face. My grandmother wrote this poem when she was 80. No matter what our age, I believe we are all in the process of learning a new song. At least I hope so. Peace!

I’m Learning a New Song

My song fell away into a minor key.
I can’t sing it any more.
The notes came heavy and dark
That had always been my song
That I sang with confidence and strength.
No more. I’m learning a new song,
One I can sing with joy.
I haven’t sung for a while –
My voice is whispery and weak
And I must choose the notes with care.
I’m taking a green note for growing
And a gold note for warmth
And maybe later many shades,
But for now I’m working on the green and gold.

~ Harriet Eleanor Niles

Friday, February 15, 2008

Better things to do...

A conversation I had yesterday with our church sexton:

Me: "Have a good weekend."
Ken: "Yeah, you too. It's a long one!"
Me: "Yeah, well I think I'll have to come in Monday anyway."
Ken: "Why? (HaHa) Don't you have anything better to do."
Me: "Well, I have plenty better to do. I just have Finance Com and Lent Study and things I have to do...."

I was not pleased with this conversation. I do realize that most people just are not going to understand that I don't have a normal weekend like many other people. Having a calling is different than punching a time clock 9am-5pm. Ken is a nice and kind man and I know he didn't mean to get under my skin.

The truth is that there are plenty of things I would rather do on President's Day. I would love to have a long weekend to relax. go to the museum, read or shop. However, it occurs to me now that I don't really have better things to do. There is nothing better than serving and loving God's children. Right? Well, at least most days....

Response I wish I had in the tip of my tongue yesterday afternoon:

Ken: "Why? (HaHa) Don't you have anything better to do."
Me: "I'm saving people's souls, damn it! What more do you want?"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Visiting the Jail

Yesterday I did my first Jail visit. The young man I saw is the son of a member of our congregation. He is being held while waiting trial for drug related robbery charges. He seems like genuinely kind person who is truly sorry for what he did. He knows that his mistakes brought him to this place and he looks forward to being able to change his life. Since he's been in jail (about six months) he has found new strength through his faith which he practices through Bible Study on his own and with his fellow inmates. He said that he understands now that his life and his future are in God's hands. While this young man is anything but free, his faith is one way he can experience freedom. I pray for him and his mother, who I consider a good friend.

The whole experience of going to the jail was rather surreal. Being moved between locked doors and shuffled through at the mercy of the guards was rather disconcerting. The noise in the jail is unbelievable... clanging doors, yelling, the loud speaker constantly blaring. And this was just in the area I was able to see. The constant barrage, day and night, must be mind numbing for the inmates.

After my visit, I came back to the church, washed my hands and made a cup of coffee. And I realized that even these simple freedoms that I take for granted are beyond the scope of my new friend's current experience. While I do not in any way dismiss the seriousness of what he did, I do hope that some good can come out of it. This whole experience has given me much food for thought.... and a new perspective on the idea that, not matter how 'free' we think are, we can only experience true freedom through surrender.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Glass Face Mountain

Here is a poem written by my Gram, Harriet Eleanor Niles:

Glass Face Mountain
(May 24, 1977)

Glass Face Mountain, look through the
morning mist
And across the river.
See us gathered at the window to
bear witness.
You have heard the killing word
spoken here,
Seen the numbing glance that destroys
And from which there is no returning.
There is a cold season when ice, like
glass, covers you face
And the leaves lie beneath the snow
then return a tender green.
We are on the side of life!
See us here at the window.
See us clearly as the mist rolls away
And the heron fishes the river.
We are not hollow people.
Our lips do not speak death.
Our eyes are warm to people and
all things beautiful.
We will keep the faith and though
we scatter
And though hollow people walk the earth,
Glass Face Mountain, until our
ashes mingle with the earth from
which you give rise,
Know that We Are Alive!

(Glass Face Mountain is in Oxford County, Maine near where my Aunt Diana used to live.)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday Five ~ Lent Edition

RevGal Mother Laura offers this Friday Five:

1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras and/or Ash Wednesday this week? How?

On Tuesday the church gathered for our annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner. The menu was pancakes (of course), sausage, bacon, syrup, fruit toppings, ice cream and cookies. Delicious! We laughed and played some silly games at our tables. It was great fun.

Wednesday, of course, turned toward a much more serious tone. We had two Ash Wednesday services jointly with the other United Methodist Church in town. The noon service was a half an hour for those who were on their lunch break from work. The evening service included the choir. At both services we offered the sign of ash on the forehead.

2. What was your most memorable Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday/Lent?

I would have to say that my most memorable Ash Wednesday was my first year as a pastor. The church was not used to having an Ash Wednesday service, so only a handful of people came. I was nervous, not knowing quite what to do myself. Yet it was a profoundly moving experience to anoint each person with the ashes and repeated the words "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return." I find that continues to be the case.

3. Did you/your church/your family celebrate Lent as a child? If not, when and how did you discover it?

I don't remember Ash Wednesday services, but its possible that our church did have them. I do remember learning about Lent. Especially the practice of giving something up ~ usually sweets or chocolate.

4. Are you more in the give-up camp, or the take-on camp, or somewhere in between?

I've usually given up something for Lent. In the past I've given up chocolate. Last year I gave up Great Harvest Cookies (a particular temptation since the bakery is right down the street from the church). One year I gave up TV. I read a lot during that Lent!

5. How do you plan to keep Lent this year?

I am not practicing any particular discipline this year. Honestly, I just hope to keep my head above water. Our Senior Pastor will be going to Italy for 10 days right in the middle of Lent, which means I will be 'solo' during that time. Three worship services, Lenten studies and Confirmation are enough spiritual discipline for me!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Creature of the Fog

Yesterday, while walking Nicky in the rain and fog, we met an adorable little cat. He just trotted up to us out of the fog and made a bee-line right for Nicky as if to say hello. Well, Nicky is not crazy about cats, so we distracted the little guy before Nicky was able to get a hold of them. (Yet, in the scuffle, we think Nicky managed to grab kitty's tale.)

Unfazed, the cat decided we were nice enough and joined us for our walk. He trotted along several paces behind, but close enough to make his presence known, always on the edge of the fog.

This may be a stretch, but kitty's presence made me think of God's grace. Showing up out of nowhere. Oblivious to our attempts to shoo it away. Tagging along, just on the edge of our awareness.

In Confirmation I am trying to help the kids understand Prevenient Grace ~ God's love for us before we are even aware of it. We didn't know that kitty would be joining us on our walk, but before we knew it, there he was. When we thought we'd lost him, we'd turn around and there he would be, trotting along behind us. Like God's grace, always there and ready to be welcomed into our hearts.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Vote

I voted today. Did you? If you are in a Super Tuesday state, I encourage you to make your way to your polling place and cast your vote. Here in New England we have rain, snow and even thunderstorms to contend with today. But these minor inconveniences are no excuse!

This is the first election in a long time which causes me to feel hopeful. Hopeful that change can be effectuated. Hopeful that the most vulnerable in our society are not forgotten. Hopeful that we may yet be a people of peace and not war.

I know that we do not all agree or see things the same way, but our vote is one way our voices can be heard. So get out there! (And don't forget your umbrella.)

Monday, February 04, 2008

My New Project

On December 9, 2004 my Gram died suddenly. She was 87. On the day she died she had been to a clergy / spouse Christmas party where she was able to visit with old friends. When we went into her apartment to clean it out we found letters she was in the process of writing to her senators and representatives. I celebrate that she lived a very active life right up until her death. Not everyone is blessed in that way.

My Gram and I shared a love of writing. This was something she nurtured in me when I was young, writing down my stories as I dictated them to her. These days most of my writing is in the form of sermons and letters for the church newsletter and the occasional blog post. Gram, though, wrote poetry and essays and short stories and journaled almost every day.

Several years ago when Gram asked me what I would like to inherit when she died I told her I wanted her journals, writings and poetry. I have had them now in my possession for a little more than three years. When I first started to read through them I would just cry.... for the beauty of her words.... for the love she had for her family.... for what I knew and what I didn't know about her life....and for everything I missed about her. The tears wouldn't stop so I had to put her pages away for a while.

But now I think I am ready. I am ready to read the words written in her distinctive script. I am ready to learn more about her life than I could possibly have known as a busy and preoccupied granddaughter. And I've decided to copy out her poetry and shorter writings so I can share them with the rest of the family. Maybe I'll even share some of them here.

I do celebrate that Gram is now part of the Communion of Saints and that she is with me always.... but I miss her and wish she were still writing poetry and going to parties and composing letters to her senator....because she loved living in the world and the world, for me at least, is a better place because she lived.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Friday Five ~ Super Bowl Edition

RevGal Sally asks: Super Bowl ~ Love it or Hate it? Give five reasons:

Love it, I guess, because....

1. Spending time with friends. This year we are going to Stephanie and Jake's house with some other friends. No Youth Group this week, so an adult fellowship night!
2. Good Food. The Super Bowl is an excuse to eat lots of food... including snack food, which I love! And Stephanie is a great cook, so I am looking forward to it.
3. Watching Tom Brady. He is kind of cute, isn't he?
4. Celebrating the Patriot's win ~ hopefully!
5. Seeing it all on S & J's HD TV.... and hopefully convincing Gary we should get one for ourselves!

As you can probably tell, I'm not a huge football fan, but I do enjoy the festive nature of the night. However, the whole day will not revolve around the Super Bowl. I am making my Confirmation Class meet from 4:30 - 6:00pm... with the promise I will get them home for the kick-off.